Walking Dead is back and Halloween is almost here, so it’s time to talk about zombies! One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Matthew 27:52-53 which says, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
I remember reading this when I was a Christian and being surprised that it wasn’t mentioned in the other gospels. It seems like a pretty big deal, all these saints digging out of their graves and walking around town. If that really happened, you’d think it would be mentioned in some other historical documents. But nope, nothing at all. This zombie story appears nowhere except in the gospel of Matthew.
That’s not the only zombie story in the Bible. There are at least nine of them, and four are in the gospels. The synagogue ruler’s daughter comes back from the dead (Mark 5:35), the son of a widow from Nain comes back from the dead (Luke 7:11), Lazarus comes back from the dead (John 11:1), and of course there’s Jesus. As Christopher Hitchens said, “It seems the resurrection was something of a banality at the time.”
Why should I believe any of these stories? Christian apologists point out that we have far more ancient copies of the gospels than we do of documents such as the Iliad. But so what? All that tells me is that Christianity was the most popular Western religion in the first millennium. Should someone living 1,500 years from now believe Harry Potter was a real person just because there are so many copies of books about him?
Besides, if you take a closer look, you’ll discover we don’t have a single original copy of the gospels. Not even one. So technically, we don’t know what the original manuscripts said. The earliest document we have is just a few fragments of a copy made decades after the original. And the original was written half a century after the events it describes.
Imagine what it would take for you to believe that shortly after being shot, Abraham Lincoln rose from the dead. If your friends told you this, you’d assume they were pulling your leg or that they had been fooled. If you saw it on the news, you might suspect the bullet hadn’t killed him or that his resurrection was an elaborate hoax. Even if the majority of historians said Abraham Lincoln rose from the dead and lived a few more years, you’d probably still be skeptical because everything you know about the world tells you that people do not rise from the dead.
Now imagine I told you that several decades after Abraham Lincoln died, someone wrote a book about how he rose from the dead. What if I also said there are no original copies of this book, only copies that were made 50-100 years later? Would you believe Abraham Lincoln rose from the dead? Of course not because the evidence is too weak. But Christians have no trouble believing Jesus rose from the dead even though their evidence is just as weak.
Christian apologists like to talk about how we have eyewitness accounts. No we don’t. All we have is hearsay, and there is a reason why hearsay is not allowed as evidence in a court of law.
Even if we did have eyewitness accounts, that wouldn’t prove anything. Eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable. We have thousands of eyewitness accounts of bigfoot, extra terrestrials, ghosts, and even the Lochness monster. But no reasonable person accepts the existence of these things based solely on eyewitness accounts. As we all know, memory is unreliable, people are easily fooled, and people often lie.
David Hume pretty much settled this issue over 250 years ago in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding where he wrote, “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.” In other words, “Which is more likely, that a miracle occurred or that the person claiming a miracle occurred is lying or mistaken?” This is known as Hume’s Maxim.
Of course, none of this proves that a resurrection is absolutely impossible. However, since we have no examples of a resurrection occurring in modern times, there is no reason to believe one ever happened. I love zombie stories, but I’m old enough to know they’re just stories.